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Last Updated on March 24, 2020

12 Bad Leadership Qualities to Be Aware of

12 Bad Leadership Qualities to Be Aware of

Have you ever heard of the “Peter Principle”? It’s the idea that in any business people get promoted based on their success at the job they’re currently in. This advancement only stops when they reach a level where they don’t excel anymore. They have gone beyond the place where they were competent, thus getting stuck at their level of incompetence.

This principle is based on the notion that success in one area does not necessarily correspond to success in other areas. This is how bad leaders are made, getting promoted to a position they just aren’t qualified for.

For example, just because someone is a good salesperson doesn’t mean that they can lead a sales team.

Take a minute to think about the best boss you’ve had and compare that to the worst boss you’ve had. Can you remember what it felt like to work for each? You can likely remember the feeling of working for each clearly. But can you identify the qualities that made the leader good or bad?

It’s important to be aware of bad leadership qualities when you see them as this will help you define your relationship with your own boss and improve your personal leadership qualities.

12 Bad Leadership Qualities

These are 12 bad leadership qualities to be aware of.

1. Conflict Avoidance

Whether it’s between department heads or team members, dealing directly and decisively with conflict is essential. By not dealing with it or just hoping that it will go away, a bad leader is just letting the situation fester. They will still have to deal with it, but by the time they do it will have morphed from a small conflict into a serious situation.

Good leaders know that they can’t make everyone happy and that making these hard decisions is in their job description.

2. Lack of Flexibility

Long gone are the days when you could adopt one management style for your whole career. Good leaders know when and how to adapt their management style. They also know their team members and understand how to motivate them individually. In today’s world, nothing says bad leadership more than an unwavering authoritarian boss.

3. My-Way-or-the-Highway Mindset

People like to think that they came into their leadership position due to their knowledge and expertise. While that may be true, it can lead to arrogance and inflexibility. Part of being a leader is inspiring the team to greater things. Unless they have the autonomy to work out problems on their own and, yes, even make mistakes, they won’t stay motivated.

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4. Rationalizing Poor or Unethical Conduct

It doesn’t matter how smart or talented a leader is; if they rationalize bad behavior from themselves or others, they are doomed to failure. It’s an easy thing to fall into, but rationalizing unethical business practices because of some short-term gain always catches up with them.

5. Lack of a Track Record

Success breeds success. While past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success, the fact is that hiring someone who has a proven track record of success is less risky than hiring someone who doesn’t.

6. Inability to Create or Conform to a Company Culture

Creating the right company culture serves to empower and uplift teams. It has company-wide implications, and if not embraced and utilized by the leader, there will be a negative effect on ROI.[1]

7. Poor Communication Skills

Leaders need to be able to effectively communicate in a variety of ways and with a variety of people. A person with poor communication skills cannot effectively share the company’s goals, mission or strategy to achieve them. Being able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is a must for any leader.

8. Self-Centered

Besides being miserable to be around, self-centered people make poor leaders. If a leader is self-centered, they will take credit for the successes and place blame for the failures. Eventually this leads to staff becoming demoralized and the business failing.

The Rotary Club has a saying: Service Above Self, coined by Rotarian Arthur Frederick Sheldon. This means that “only the science of right conduct toward others pays. Business is the science of human services. He profits most who serves his fellows best.”[2]

9. Unpredictability

This can take many forms. A team needs to be able to predict what the boss wants in order to have any kind of autonomy doing their jobs. Without it, they will be forced into a system of micromanagement. Having to okay every decision for fear of reprisal is a failure of leadership.

Additionally, employees need a sense of stability in order to feel safe. If employees know that the boss’s reaction to bad news is dependent on their mood that day, it can stop the flow of vital information. It also means that they will constantly be walking on eggshells around that boss.

Finally, people who say or do things without thinking first make very poor leaders. The bottom line is that sending mixed signals is one of the bad leadership qualities that will doom a business to failure.

10. Not Forward-Thinking

Being satisfied with the status quo is never a good thing for a leader. It signifies that they are more concerned about surviving than growing and thriving. Good leaders are forward-thinking and keep their businesses at “the tip of the spear” of change and innovation.

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11. Know-It-All

Good leaders know just how much they don’t know. They have no desire to be right or even be the smartest person in the room. Good leaders know who and when to ask for advice.

Know-it-alls, on the other hand, rarely take advice or even input from anyone other than a superior. They do not take advantage of the huge amount knowledge and talent that’s available to them.

12. Not Focused on the Customer

A leader must be focused on the customer. They need to know exactly who they are serving, what their needs are, and how the company can work to fulfill those needs better than the competition. If the leader in your organization isn’t focusing on the customer, you can be assured that there’s a leader from a competitor that is.

Why People Stay With a Bad Leader

When you have a bad leader, the simple solution is to just quit and find another job, but it’s rarely as simple as that. People stay in stressful and unhealthy relationships all the time; the work relationship is no different. But why do they stay?

There are a myriad of reasons people stay working for a bad leader, but they are mostly tied to basic human psychological dynamics.

Feeling Emotionally Drained

When dealing with a high stress situation day after day, it becomes emotionally draining. They may want to find something else, but they just don’t have the energy to do it. It’s also not a good idea to quit a job without having another job lined up. However, it’s hard to get another job lined up when you’re emotionally exhausted all the time. Stressful work environments can also make it hard to envision more positive situations that may be out there.

Loss Aversion

Not wanting to give up something that you already have is another reason people stay with a bad leader. The thinking goes like this: “He/She is a lousy boss, but this might be the best job I can get.” In psychological terms, it’s a concept called “Loss Aversion.”

Love for the Job

Some people stay because they really love the job even though they hate the boss. The work is highly meaningful to them and gives them a sense of purpose and emotional satisfaction.

Hope of Change

Finally, there’s always that hope that the boss might change their ways. It rarely happens, but there’s still hope.

How to Deal with Bad Leadership

If quitting is not an option, there are some strategies you can use to deal more effectively with a bad leader. While the exact strategy to use depends on the specific bad leadership qualities of your boss, we do have some good general recommendations.

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Identify the Motivation

The first thing you want to do is observe. You want to identify your boss’s triggers and motivations. What is important to them?

Keep in mind that they may not be aware of their own motivations, but if you are observant, you can make reasonable assumptions on the following:

  • Are they worried about how they look to their colleagues or superiors?
  • What (if anything) seems to make them happy?
  • How do they measure success in themselves and others?
  • What do they care about most?
  • What frightens them?

By understanding a leader’s personality, motivations, and triggers, you can frame your interactions accordingly. For example, when presenting an idea to a leader who is a know-it-all, try to give them a way to “share” in the credit.

Instead of saying, “I think we could save money by changing how we do X and instead do Y,” you’d be better off phrasing it this way: “Hey, I’d like to get your opinion. Do you think we could save money on X if we change it to Y?” This will give them an out, and in their mind, they can take (at least partial) credit for the idea, so it is more likely to be implemented.

Don’t Sabotage

It can be tempting to try to “even the score” by working slowly, taking extra days off, or abusing mental health and sick days. However, all that does is make the situation worse. You need to have good working relationships with your coworkers as well as other leaders within the company.

You also don’t want to let it affect your work. Keep the quality of your work high. Unless you have another job lined up, you don’t want to lose this one.

Anticipate

Try to anticipate the leader’s wants, needs, and expectations. By doing this, you can stay one step ahead of them. This is especially helpful if your boss is a micromanager.[3]

Clarify

Good communication skills are a must for any organization. Unfortunately, one of the most common bad leadership qualities is poor communication skills. Instead of relying on a leader with poor communication skills, you need to take control of the situation.

There’s a tried and true method to when trying to get clarity from someone. Simply repeat back to them what they said and have them listen. “Okay, this is what I heard you say. Is that what you meant?”

If it is, you have achieved clarity; if it isn’t, it gives them a chance to explain further.

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This technique works well when you are assigned a new or different task as well as when handling disputes with the boss.

Take Care of Yourself

Poor leadership and bad bosses make for a stressful and exhausting workday. Don’t let it damage your physical or mental health. Do the following to take care of yourself.

Get Plenty of Exercise

One of the best ways to reduce stress is through exercise. It not only reduces stress, but it also keeps you healthy and away from the more harmful ways to reduce stress, like drinking, smoking, and drug use.

Keep a Healthy Diet

A high-stress work environment will take its own toll on your body. Stress is a known factor in both heart disease and stroke. Minimize these risks by maintaining a healthy diet.

Have a Support System

Having someone you can talk to is important any time you are in a stressful situation. Being able to vent and talk with someone always helps. You can bounce ideas off them, and they may give you advice or a perspective you haven’t considered.

Get Enough Sleep

The connection between quality sleep and heart health has been well established for some time now. However, our understanding of the interaction or cause and effect has evolved over time. It is now believed that poor quality sleep contributes to things like coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.[4]

Conclusion

In an ideal world, we would all have good, competent leaders and managers, ones who uplifted us, helped us succeed, and made us feel valued. However, studies have shown that “75% of Americans say their boss is the most stressful part of their workday.”[5]

It’s obvious, then, that this is a very common phenomenon and one that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Your best bet is to learn how to deal effectively with bad leadership until either you or they leave. Regardless, always keep in mind that a job is never worth your health or family relationships.

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

Reference

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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